Monday, January 31, 2011

It's not all bad

I am sitting here at my desk lamenting the coming blizzard, knowing full well that being snowed in would not mean gaming all day. It would mean sitting in my office and actually working from home. What a terrible thing, to be a mere two floors from all my gaming shit and not be able to use it. I could never actually work from home, even though my job would allow me to do it most of the time. The temptation for a Street Fighting lunch would be much to great and I would end up unemployed much faster than I would like to admit.

There is going to be money available to purchase Marvel vs Capcom 3 when it arrives in just over two weeks, but I am not terribly excited for it. When I first got MvC2 for the Dreamcast many years ago I had no idea that the fighting game 'scene' existed. I was the best out of my small group of friends and that was all that mattered. Looking back now is embarrassing. The only thing I was better at was mashing. This wonderful ignorance last up through Tekken 5 when I met a tournament level Tekken player. It was not a pleasant discovery; being beaten about the head and neck with the club or your inadequacies never is. The one thing this guy did do that wasn't painful was make me practice.

I was running an EB at the time. It was in a new location that was, for some reason, absolutely dead on Friday nights. I worked these shifts all by myself, put Tekken in the demo PS2, and practiced for somewhere around four hours straight. I did this for an entire summer without telling anyone or playing this high end Tekken player. When I thought I was ready I showed at his store with a shit eating grin and a chip on my shoulder. His main was Nina and I had been working on Steve Fox, and it was on. I took him the first round, handcuffed him with jabs and punished him with juggles and corner combos that he did not know I could do. Between rounds he paused, looked down, took a few deep breaths, then got down to business.

He kicked my ass. Again.

There were two lessons here. One, practicing against the computer, even when it is as good at approximating a person as it was in Tekken 5 or Virtua Fighter, doesn't prepare you for fighting an actual human being who can adapt to what you are dishing out. And two, you don't walk into a man's house and throw down unless you are damn sure you can back it up. I never did beat this guy when he was playing like he meant it, but he did admit weeks later that I gave him a good scare, and that was good enough for me.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

We've been here before, you and I

Every time I play Street Fighter I quit and swear that I will never play again.

There is another game going on in my head, a game in which I am the observer and harshly critiquing each and every round. A running personal commentary, if you will, and it is never friendly. 'Look at that,' he says, 'he had super, actually landed the one frame link from the double to standing jab, got the ball, and didn't cancel into it. Why is he even here?' It gets worse when I moonlight with other characters. 'What a surprise, another missed FADC cancel into ultra, it's a wonder that he can even throw a fireball with any consistency. Oh, now he's playing Guile? Tier whore. And Dee Jay? I guess he has given up.'

This kind of instant personal (almost dual personal...) feedback would be helpful if I wasn't such an asshole to myself. There is no forgiveness there, no understanding that I play a lot of things and don't practice and have no real aspirations of actually being good anymore. No, that bastard in my head compares what he sees directly to professional players who live and die by this shit, sitting in practice mode for hours at a time, putting actual work in during the time that I waste playing terrible games. 'You know exactly what to do, just do it!' it screams with no appreciation for the muscle memory it takes to perform cool things with any regularity or the fighting common sense that only comes from spending a lot of time losing. 'If you were a better player, you would win more, so be better or just stop!'

So I quit again last night after an ugly beat down handed down by a 10000+ BP Seth, my own very personal peanut gallery having driven the stick from my hands. I'll forget the shame in a few days and be right back at it, treading water and dropping combos.

What an awful, wonderful cycle.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Actually, they're kind of thin

I have absolutely no knowledge of the 'club scene'. I have no idea what kind of music they play, what kind of people go there, what exactly they do and with whom, what they drink, or if there are any in my general area. I have actually been to one club, but that was many years ago in the former Russian republic of Estonia (true story) and I don't remember much of it for strictly beer related reasons. In spite of this I get the impression that DJ Hero 2 is a better representation of the music customarily spun in such places. The first game took a song from one genre that I just might have heard of and mashed it together with a song from another genre that I hadn't. The result was sometimes very good, sometimes painful, but always interesting. DJ Hero 2 skips the songs that I might have heard and jumps right to mashups of songs that fall cleanly outside of any genre I own or would actively listen to. It is undoubtedly more authentic, but much less listener friendly for the middle aged dude sitting on the floor of his basement because he has yet to replace the chair he broke last month.

Not that that should remind you of anyone.

DJ Hero 2 has made many improvements as a game over its ground braking forerunner. They have taken three buttons, a turn table, a cross fader and dial that I still do not fully understand and thrown them together in more combinations than you would think possible. I hung in and played it on hard for a little longer that last time, that is to say at all, and had much more success. You don't fail a song in DJ Hero, which I applaud, the mix just sounds terrible and it is all your fault. Virtual ladies in impossibly tight hot pants mock your turn table inadequacies, but at least you get to finish the mix. The only thing holding this game from being an absolute triumph of a sequel is, at least to me, a less interesting set list. This opinion is based entirely out of ignorance and is therefore meaningless, but DJ Hero did not sell amazingly well, and I don't think DJ Hero 2 did much better, so at least making an attempt to appeal to those with no rhythm and no desire to clubbing would seem like a good idea.

That fact that this comes from Activision, a company looking to 'exploit' its properties on a yearly basis, is all the  more confusing. DJ Hero 2 is genuine to the point of it being a detriment. Not a single DJ has morphed into a cow monster or zombie/mummy hybrid, so someone is clearly not trying hard enough.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An adequate ending

After the corrupt save debacle I was just about ready to give up on New Vegas. At the very least doing things in a slightly less destructive manner the second time through Ceaser's camp opened up quite a few more quests. Two night ago I put off the end game to do just a little more exploring and am very happy I did. A new vault had appeared, and even though there were no quests associated with it (at least from the start) it was the best two hours that the game had to offer. New Vegas had done quite a few things, but it had not yet been frightening or even the least bit unnerving. Ghouls were used as comic relief in spite of their grotesque appearance, so it was just about time for something to make me jump, or at the very least think twice about barreling around a corner without worrying about what might be there.

Oddly enough, it was zombies that finally did it; radioactive zombies to be exact. The vault started out with an extensive cave complex that was irradiated from beginning to end. I had a radiation suit with me so I was prepared, but the suit did almost nothing to stop damage. When I got to vault entrance what looked like a ghoul stood up. It took it charging at me to realize it was different, bonier, with sharp teeth and a scream that belonged in Dead Space or Silent Hill. Just one wasn't so bad, but killing him just pulled more screams from the darkness of the vault. Each time one died more came, drawn by their fallen brothers' death rattles. Eventually they got more powerful, some wearing armor, other with the ability to cause intense explosions that broke all my limbs and filled me full of RADs. It was more intense than anything before or after despite there being almost no story an only a token quest at the end involving a few people trapped in the vault's reactor chamber.

Screw letting them out, I sent the place into a meltdown and walked away.

After killing the man in the striped suit my courier went into a violent downward spiral that turned him against every ally he had made during the first part of his quest. His only friend was the robot Yes Man, and it took little convincing on the robot's part to get him to destroy the Hoover Dam and ruin everything for everyone. The finals battles were interesting, with the NCR and the Legion fighting each other, then turning their guns on me after I removed someone head with a point blank shotgun blast from behind. The only real mistake I had made was destroying an army of backup robots that Yes Man could have used to bolster by meager forces, but the final encounters were solved with my maxed out speech skill and not zoning back and forth between areas. I convinced the Legion commander that spreading his forces out to fight the NCR was a tactically terrible idea and he left, then I convinced the NCR commander that the dam was now mine and that he should leave quickly, lest my few remaining robot bodyguards tossed his sorry ass off the dam.

It was an adequate ending to an adequate game. I am sure there were many, many more hours to be wrung out of New Vegas, but this was enough.

The time had come to drop phat beats, phatter beats than I had dropped before.

Also, watch this:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Recapturing hatred

Fallout New Vegas really, really pissed me off on Saturday might. It has been three days and my anger has subsided, but I need to get in the right frame of mind to recount what happened. Being at work helps, of course, but I need something teeth gratingly rage inducing. I got it.

Demons' Souls.

Now I am plenty pissed. New Vegas is losing its way quickly. For the first third of the game there was a clear goal and a clear destination: kill the guy in the stripped suit who is hiding on the strip. I still wandered around killing things, but the mere presence of a well defined goal kept me from losing all track of time and purpose. Once I killed him and was given free reign to chose between many, many paths the story suffered. There was more freedom but the narrative trailed off into nothing. I know I am supposed to make contact with all the major powers in the area, but I don't really know why, and even though I think I am bending them to my will there is still a gnawing suspicion that I am played for a fool.

It was in this mood of suspicious diplomacy that I answered an invitation from Ceaser himself for a meeting in the Legion's base. This is the same Legion that likes to crucify entire towns and start people on fire before throwing them into the Grand Canyon, so I was a little nervous. Sure enough, I get off the boat and they ask for all my guns. I refuse, they start cock waving, I say no again, and the shooting starts. Things are not going well: this is a military run island, there are lots and lots of guy, some melee and some ranged, and they don't let me hind around the corner and drink sarsaparilla to regenerate health like most other enemies do. I fight my way to the front gate, having used every stimpack I own, walk through (loading screen) and am shot dead as soon as I can move.

No problem, the guy who removed my head was to my left, so I ran reloaded the autosave and ran forward. Still dead. On the third try I entered VATS as soon as I could move and killed my assailant. It worked on him, but the three guys behind him still killed me. In the forth try I figured out how to cheat: kill a guy or two then flee back through the main gates of the compound. The Legion didn't follow and I was able to find a place to sleep just down the hill. This process went on for almost two hours, but I killed every rat bastard in the place, right up to and including Ceaser himself. This broke about a half dozen quests and I didn't care; they were all dead and I was going to get rich from pawning their antique weapons are armor. Feeling rather pleased with myself I fast traveled back to the strip to unload the first backpack full of loot.

Black screen. I could hear music, but the system was completely unresponsive. This had happened once before. Time to turn the system off and load the autosave that kicks off before every fast travel.

'Your autosave data is corrupt.'


New Vegas had punished me for cheating. It had broken my knuckles and thrown back out on the street minus the two hours of experience and caps I had illegitimately gained. So I started over from my last manual save, handed my weapons over and talked to Ceaser like a good boy, and was thoroughly pissed off the entire time.

What makes it even worse is that the Brotherhood of Steel pulled the same shit on me last night. I might have been able to take them (my cheating, of course) but was scared to even try, lest I get bitch slapped by a buggy game again. I hope this is done soon. I am losing interest.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vegas, baby!

I finally made it into the strip last night after a welcome two hour Street Fighting marathon (more on that later, good games Folken) and have found myself paralyzed by how many choices I have been given. As soon as I stepped foot on the strip I was approached by the robot who dug me out of a shallow grave several weeks before and told to see Mr. House.

If only. No this Mr. House is a computer that is running the strip via his custom created robot goons. He wanted the platinum chip back that I was carrying when I was shot, blah blah do the right thing blah blah vague threats, and then let me go. Standard mafia stuff, really. I cared nothing about any of this and just wanted to kill the guy who put two bullets in my head. I found him in another casino, convinced him to take me up to his suite to talk and then beat him to death in a corner while the shots from his puny hand gun bounced off my stolen armor. Since I had never put any points into hand to hand combat this took a long, long time.

The guy did indeed have the platinum chip on him, but before taking it back to Mr. House I decided to check out his private room in the 13th floor. There was another robot there, Yes Man by name, who went on for fifteen minutes about elaborate plans to take over the strip, kill Mr. House, and either unite or destroy the other factions in New Vegas. Needless to say I wanted a piece of that action. As soon as I hit yes something around five new quests popped up; I need to meet with the head of each family, decide who stays and who goes, figure out how to turn the robot army over to my side with the platinum chip, deal with an invitation from the Legion to have a sit down with their leader even though I have killed every single member I have ever come across, and pull it all off without getting killed.

Not bad for a courier who was mostly dead at the beginning of the game.

The looming release of Super Street Fighter IV AE has me scrambling for other characters. The nerf bat has not been kind to Blanka, and while I know full well that I will end up paying him again it will be good to have options. Dee Jay remains a project, and if I can start linking jabs instead of chaining them I might have a few combos to work with, but last night I decided to play someone entirely new: Rose. I have seriously been missing out; she fits my defensive with fits of reckless offense style, has combos that are safe when spaced correctly and relatively easy to do (for a command character), her ultra 2 is completely over powered (right now...) and she has kick ass hats. She takes hits like a girl, which I suppose makes sense, and I need to learn which normals are good and which are not, but she is a command character that isn't a shoto and has the decency to not wear a leotard into combat.

I'm not so sure about the high heels, but at least they painful when connecting with someone's shins.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

But I hardly know her

I made it all the way through Fallout 3 without ever finding the dog everyone was talking about. The closet I came to a companion as a trigger happy super-mutant who stayed with me just long enough to get tired of me hiding behind him and turn on me. Thankfully even super-mutant have a hard time dealing with five or six mines in a row. It just felt better wandering around by myself with no one looking over my shoulder as my allegiances constantly shifted and I stole from everyone who wasn't looking. New Vegas was going that way, too, until I picked up a follower completely by mistake. She was drunk in a bar and I had done one errand for her, then ripped into her lazy ass with a speech skill that I have dropped an inordinate number of points into. Turns out she was into that sort of thing and has been following me around ever since.

It wasn't all bad; she was a decent shot and had an interesting companion quest about finding the people who killed off her caravan. She wanted to go in shooting, I wanted to play ninja, and I got my way. During the final part of the quest I was in a shop belonging to the company that had my companion's crew rubbed out and one of the heavies asks me to go and get someone for him. Always looking to make a few caps I obliged, only to find out he wanted to see the whiskey soaked loose cannon that I came in with. She walked over, he threatened her, I said knock it off, and suddenly I have fifteen plus angry dudes with plasma rifles shooting at me.

I ran away.

Well, I didn't run far. I just hid around the corner and shot the goons in the head one at a time until there were none left. The shop was not empty of all barriers to looting, so I marched back in and filled my pockets. Rose (I think that is her name) yelled at me for starting a fight without warning her ahead of time. I nearly shot her myself.

There is no way to know if this played out the way the developers intended or if I broke the quest by being careless. The brilliant part is that is doesn't matter. Intentional or not it was very amusing, and just one of many stories that have come out of a scant twenty hours of play.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Take it off! Oh god, put it back!

I finally saw New Vegas last night. It seemed to float on the horizon, the one light source that would not boil me into a radioactive pool of goo if I got too close. This kind of wanton civilization seemed out of place, especially when compared to the burnt out factories and towns I had been exploring, but that is the whole point. New Vegas isn't like the rest of the wasteland. It is one of the few surviving cities from the old world, with all the good and bad that comes along with it. I still have some more exploring to do before stepping in and trying to not lose all of my caps, but the giant wasps that I ran into on one side and the waterlurks on the other are herding me towards the promised land. The game is still open ended, it is just not a good idea to wander into a few places before you are ready. I do not mind being pushed in this way, it keeps things moving and prevents people with fifteen second attention spans from never getting anyway.

When I do finally make it there I am terrified that I am going to find a ghoul strip club. Think about it: taking everything off suddenly includes the dancers skin.

It feels like I should talk about the innards of the PS3 being laid bare for all the miscreants of the gaming world to poke through and take advantage of, fingering through its intestines, trying to find a place to put their custom firmware and Modern Warfare hacks. I remember when I first discovered piracy, using springs and odd attachments to fool my Playstation, then not having to try to fool the Dreamcast at all. Free games were all find and good, but I stopped because I realized that I was not harming the giant evil developers, I was taking money from the people I respected: the guys at the end of the line who did the art and programming and bug testing, all waiting for their piece of an ever shrinking pie. I did not want to be a part of that, and I have no respect for those who do, especially when they couch stealing with idealistic bullshit.

But in truth, I know I cannot control what people do and have ceased caring. Sony will ban them, they will complain, and it will have no affect on me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Going nowhere

Fallout and I are having a disagreement over what should and should not affect my karma. According to Fallout every evil, moderately evil, mischievous, somewhat naughty or even slightly blue thing I do goes against my karma. I am of the opinion that these things are only true if I get caught and if the evil that I do does not help the greater good. For example, I just saved a town from a gang of escaped prisoners who had them all hostage. They are grateful, but not quite grateful enough, so I relieved them of them extra ammo and the caps from their safes. That may sound bad, but I am going to use that ammo and money to good in the next town, who I will then rob blind in the name of future good deeds. They are helping me more than they know, more than they probably want to, but it is not a selfish act on my part. I am stealing their shit to help. So fuck bad karma, I have saved enough lives that a few compulsory donations are in order, even if the victims, I mean benefactors don't agree.

Three days of play time in and I haven't even gotten close to New Vegas, much less advanced any of the plot related quests any further than absolutely necessary. I did run into an area that I was clearly not supposed to be in yet, at least that it was the deathclaw said before he removed my brain from my skull, but that just meant it was time to turn around and walk the other way into the wilderness seeking adventure and poorly locked doors. I am likeCaine from Kung Fu, only with less scruples and powerful ranged weapons. And no hand to hand combat. And no history of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Never mind, I don't want to be like Caine at all. Did you know that Carradine didn't even learn kung fu until after the original series was canceled? He was a dancer; a dancer with a sword wielding, boxing, street fighting background. OK, he's kind of cool again.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Fallout. That random sentence is a perfect example of how I play the game. Here is my quest, this is where I am going, going to go there and get the thing that I need for the guy back at the HEY! What is that! Off in the distance, what is that? I must investigate it, loot it, kill everything that lives in it, then go back and sell off all the bits of junk that I picked up. Several hours later, now where was I? Oh yeah, the quest. Here I go, off to get the thing for the guy back at the HEY! What is that?!

Kwai Chang Caine is not amused with my stupid shit. Oh well.

Friday, January 14, 2011

He's not just Hellboy, you know, he was in City of Lost Children, too.

I would make some sort of pithy remark about Fallout and how it never changes but doing so without Ron Perlman's voice lacks gravitas of any sort and I am sure many people have already made the joke. I also don't think that it is a bad thing, as Fallout 3 was excellent and Fallout New Vegas picks up right where the last one left off, at least in a game play sense. The opening was not quite as good; recovering from a botched shot to the head is not as engaging are playing out your characters youth in a vault, no offense to current events intended. I did feel a little better about tweaking my characters after the interactive generation, attempting once more to re-create my wonderful, awful character from Oblivion. There were simply not enough points to go around, so I ended up as a sneaking marksman with a golden tongue instead of the sneaky golden tongued marksman who could open your save and crack into your computer then get a discount at the shop as he sells what he stole for new weapons.

But there is still time.

The VATS system is still just as useful as it is grotesquely cinematic. I do not know how I mange to remove heads with a handgun but it looks cool every time it happens. Repairing items seems to be easier, though there is also the possibility that I just did not understand how it worked in the last game. There is so much here, even in just the opening area, that missing items and quests and interesting bits of junk to pick up is inevitable. The randomness of environmental occurrences approaches STALKER, with no two treks across the desert ending the same way.

The character models are all still hideous, but that is what a nuclear holocaust will get you. The hot chicks die first for some reason. Or perhaps icky upper lip hair in a natural antidote to radiation sickness.

In Street Fighter news, we have found a mirror match that is even more boring that Honda or Blanka.

I tried to count the sonic booms. There are 56 in the first round. 107 in the second. Then I gave up.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shoot things! Shoot them again!

First things first: CoDBlOps is the single greatest gaming acronym ever, replacing KUFCoD (Kingdom Under Fire Circle of Doom. It sounds funny, perhaps a little dirty, and everyone knows exactly what you are talking about. It is also just enough under the radar that people who don't play games will have no idea what you are referring to.

'Put some good time in with CoDBlOps last night,' says the first gamer.
'Really? Get any new perks or did you just spend all your time manhandling people with your long, black, hard weapon? replies the second.

Yes, all violence does eventually boil down to homo-eroticism. That is simply the way of things. Embrace it or I will anonymously call you a fag, which just proves the point further. Not that I will ever actually touch the multiplayer, but I hear that a lot of people do.


The beginning of this post was done yesterday afternoon, before I finished the single player portion last night. Two evening, or around six to seven hours, was actually exactly what I was expecting. It is difficult to maintain a breakneck pace for much longer than that and CoDBlOps never lightens up. It is difficult for me to compare to the previous Call of Duty, as these shooter are a flavor of the day that I enjoy while they last and forget about shortly after, but it was definitely a good time. There were several moments where I died for discernible reason, others that an enemy ran past a dozen of my buddies to get to me because it was my job to kill him and trigger some really cool scripted moment. Moments like this were jarring because the rest of time it does a very good job of feeling like a partially interactive movie. Seeing some Russian soldier clip through cover on his way to me is not a good way to hold that illusion up.

Speaking of cover, why in the world is there no cover system in this? Sticking ones head out gets it shot of cleanly more often than not, but there is no good way to know if you are actually safely behind a wall or not. Cover systems works in first person, at least they have before, so I do not understand why the only way to know if you are safe from random gunfire is to check you ass and see how many bullets are in it. Perhaps they didn't want to slow things down, or they really were going for the Schwarzenegger 'Commando', never reload, huge dude that dodges incoming fire bit. It would also have provided a few tense quit moments to break up the continuous stream of the world is ending and everyone is shooting at you events.

Even so, it is difficult to complain about a game that knows exactly how long to be and keeps you amused the whole time. They even took away magically regenerating health for one of the final (and best) levels. It was a risk and it paid off. There was actually story here, too. The twist was foreshadowed rather bluntly at the half way point but figuring it out ahead of time didn't ruin anything. Working Kennedy in and a final allusion that the main character killed him was brilliant, and the final Left 4 Dead parody with Kennedy, Castro, Nixon and some other guy fighting off a zombie hoard was hilarious. For their first modern day Call of Duty Treyarch has done pretty well for themselves, proving that Infinity Ward did not hold a monopoly on AAA manly shooters.

Again, I hear that a lot of gamers play this against one another 'online' in 'death matches,' sometimes in a 'team' with other 'people,' but I couldn't find anything in any menus that looked like that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Coddled to death

It did not take much looking to find that I am far from alone in my general dislike of Fable 3. The game came to a rather anti-climactic end last night and I could not be bothered with the remaining quests or any of the new ones that popped up. The game was done, as far as I was concerned, because I had trolled the shit out of 6.5 million residents of Albion and there was nothing that I could do to top that.

Right after becoming king you are faced with a new dilemma: be a tyrant and earn enough money to hire an army to save you from the invasion of refugees from Epic Mickey or be a nice guy and pay for your defense out of your own pocket. I had very little money but quite a bit of real estate, so I assumed that as time passed between missions, to the tune of one full year, I was continue to earn my rental fees. Not so, you accumulate rental fees in real time, so even though a year has passed in game time not a single deadbeat bothers to pay for their newly renovated hovels and huts. It was also at this point that I discovered that not having money did not stop me from giving everyone all the expensive things that they wanted; I could just spend myself right into the negative. If only there was a large, Asian country that I could sell all my debt to, then it would be an even more apt allegory for current events.

'You want all these nice things?' I thought, 'you are welcome to them, and more.' By the time the invasion arrived I was over 2 million in the red. My entire civilian population died, right down to the orphans that I built a new retreat for, funded by money I did not have. Everybody got exactly what they wanted, and then everybody died. It was a fitting end for a game that never really got started and I am not in the least bit ashamed of enjoying how I put it to bed. When a game can't be bothered to make a damn bit of sense it is no longer worth trying to play by its rules. I'll just make my own fun, even at the cost of countless virtual souls.

Wow, so this is why people play The Sims.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Faces from the past

The Tomb Raider XBLA game was awesome, and it has since made its way out on to Steam.

But this?

This is bad ass. A Kain and Raziel character pack.

But which one of them is the re-skin of Lara?

It's not easy staying green

Playing Fable 3 has left me very little to talk about. It is unremarkable and moderately amusing at the same time. What it hasn't managed to be yet is at all funny, despite its constant and often desperate attempts at humor. Deathspank managed to be funny in a self mocking way that worked for many hours. Rock of the Dead, a truly terrible music-ish game, managed more than a few laughs, but mostly because I kept picturing Neil Patrick Harris reading a line and then staring incredulously at the voice acting directer through the studio glass, wondering what he had done that was so awful that this was being inflicted upon him. The previous two Fable games were a reasonable mix of drama and farce, and the seemed to know when it was time to knock all the silly shit off and get down to business. Fable 3 tried to be serious once and a while but it is never believable, and then it tries to be funny, and it is isn't believable. It is constantly stuck somewhere between drama and comedy, like watching Airplane on a black and white television in German with no subtitles. You can recognize that there is humor there, somewhere, but all the angst never goes away for long enough for it settle in.

The past two days have been terrible at work, and the hours at home that should have been empty were also filled with work, hence my lack of posting. Bitching about having to make a living is never fun to read, though, so I will talk about finally finishing up last night had spending three more hours fighting in the streets. The unthinkable has finally happened: I have grown tired of playing Blanka. Almost every match plays out the same way, with me fishing for a life lead and then running away until the round ends. It didn't help that I ran into a much better Blanka who hopped over my my prone corpse over and over then hit me with jab X electricity, wondering why I wasn't doing the same (hint: I'm not that good). Not wanting to move to far from my home position of down back I wandered back to Dee Jay. Oddly enough not playing as him for months seems to have improved my game with him. Either that or no one else ever plays him and the match up to totally unfamiliar. My logical side knows that he really is just Guile with worse normals, but he is fun to play, and sometimes that is all that matters. I do wish that at least on of his ultras was better. Ultra 1 is okay for punishing some fireballs and catching people pushing buttons but it is so slow coming out that is it terrible for punishing whiffed attacks. Ultra 2 has combo and juggle options, but they are not exactly easy to do and the ultra motion itself is a pain in the ass. If he had Guile's ultra 2 it would be great, but I will survive.

I did find out that Dee Jay's recovery after a fire ball (or max out, or whatever it is) is not as good as Guile's. A cross screen dash ultra to the face from Chun Li at the cost of a round is proof enough of that.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Am I repeating myself?

Fable 3 feels like it is going to be very short. This is not a good feeling for a game that ostensibly takes you from prince to nobody to king and then you have to actually rule the kingdom for a while. Nothing feels epic in either scope or importance, mostly because side quests range from 'rescue my idiot daughter who likes to explore wolves' dens' to 'put on this chicken suit and lure my flock back to their cages with oddly erotic dance moves.' This is not a joke, just a bit of an exaggeration. It's hard to feel important when you aren't doing important things, and shooting foul mouthed gnomes off of rooftops just doesn't feel all that relevant to sparking a revolution against your despotic brother. This mundane nature is nothing new for Fable, it is just another thing that ceases to be forgivable when a franchise gets anywhere past the number 2.

There was honest growth between the first and second game, with the sequel getting just a little but closer to what was promised and never delivered on by the first game. Everything was larger, there was more to do, your actions had more (well, at least some) consequence. It was what a sequel should be. The third time around just feels like the second time around with guns instead of crossbows. Steam punk in general is an underused setting (and I wish Arcanum was more playable than it was) but the new setting just isn't cutting it. My disappointment in this game makes me nervous for other upcoming sequels like the oddly named BioShock Infinite and the new Batman game. Have I finally had my fill of established genres?

I hope not, because Fallout New Vegas is setting there in line, I have yet to play DJ Hero 2, and there are probably a dozen other new versions of old games that I need to play.

Perhaps expecting constant growth is unreasonable. Developers can't continually one up themselves, can they? Actually, they can. Red Dead Redemption was a sequel to a game that very few people played, but it was still a sequel. I might not like all (most) of their games, but it can never be said that Rockstar simply rests on it laurels.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Same Molyneux, different day

I finally got around to testing my new hard wired setup with Street Fighter on Monday night. Part of me was hoping that the newly discovered bandwidth would solve all of my problems, that some how the speed of my bits would make be a better player. Instead I was so outclassed by a Guile that I nearly tossed my arcade stick across the room (again). Losing is one thing, losing a close battle is better, and winning is best, but playing for two rounds without ever figuring out what to do is no fun at all. It was a hopeless endeavor, one that I learned nothing from, and I never want to play this person again.

Thankfully someone who is much closer to my limited skill level invited me and we played for quite a while. I was a complete bastard and through sonic booms at his fledgling Makoto until he gave up with her and moved on. It was not a very sportsmanlike move, but it felt good.

Fable III has many problems, notwithstanding how much shit Molyneux is full of (it's a lot). It is nearly indistinguishable from the last Fable, which means that it has not aged well at all. Character animations are stiff, facial animations are much worse, and the character models themselves just don't look very good. It feels like magic and ranged weapons are more important this time around, which is good because melee combat is just as boring as it ever was. Perhaps I am just outgrowing what Fable has to offer;  farting just isn't as funny as it used to be, and the same fart routine over and over just gets old. Still, it is a game that I can live with for a while. I plan on playing a very nice hero, as the light side has always felt much more productive in Fable. The only real benefit to being evil so far is killing lots of people and that really isn't much fun when they don't fight back.

This will last until the main story is done and I become bored with my wife and children. Late one evening the hero will be sitting in his home, quietly brooding over the old days. Something will snap, he will grab his dusty, neglected sword and begin to sharpen it.

'They are all out to get me,' he will mumble to himself, 'they all must die.'

It will be ugly. It also frightens me that I have this planned out.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A twist I didn't see

Castlevania continued right on being unremarkable up to the bitter end. I had already fought Satan once this year, and last time I had to contend with his giant swinging wang as well as other weapons he was wielding. A tale of betrayal, blah blah, Gabriel comes through in the end. I kept waiting and waiting for Dracula to show up and he never did. Death was little more than a sub-boss. It was like a Metroid without missile upgrades or a Mario game without mushroom powerups: sure, it was probably better than I was giving it credit for, but it did no justice to the legacy of games it stole its name from. 

I felt this way right on through the credits. But wait, what's this? Why, it is a little more of Kojima's influence, a teaser cut scene after the game is done. Suddenly there was more imagery that actually looked like a Castlevania. There was that annoying bird guy boss (Slogra?) from IV, a guy in a hood who I was sure was the Prince of Darkness floating through a destroyed castle. Where was all this for the last ten hours? Clearly someone who made the game knew what things should have looked like and was only allowed to direct the final cinematic. Just as I was about to get pissed thing went and got all Anne Rice. The hooded man was actually the third Lord of Darkness, Gabriel was still alive and had become Dracula somehow, Satan was coming back and was naturally pissed, and everyone ended up in the middle of a modern day intersection after being hurled out of a stained glass window.

Holy shit.

This three minute denouement had me more pumped than actually playing the game for the last several days ever managed. It was so out of the blue that I couldn't believe it; the idea of a modern day Castlevania starring Gabriel as Dracula is so awesome I can hardly stand it. It couldn't possible be real.

So, unimpressed by the game as it never got past being a God of War clone in dusty, well used clothes. But if they actually make a sequel that makes good on what they have promised all will be forgiven.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Short, short memory (best of the year)

First of the year, so I suppose it is about time for me to talk a little bit about the things I enjoyed most lost year. I play a lot of games and it is very easy to lose track of what was good and what was bad, as I tend to forget the really shitty things and remember only the unexpected gems hiding in the middle of terrible games. There is also the problem with recency, as the games that I have gone through in the last month or two are just closer to the top of heap in the giant pile of gaming knowledge that eats up most of the space my head. (Side story: my daughter got a DS for Christmas, and a few licensed titles of questionable quality. One of them stars the penguins from Madagascar. She didn't understand what to do with it and asked me for help. I played it for thirty seconds and proclaimed, 'Oh, this is just Lost Vikings in 3D,' assuming she would know what I was talking about. She's eight, and I am a fool.)

Since games boil down to good moments and bad moments I feel that the best way to acknowledge the best games I played this year is to just list the first two that come to mind and run with it. I am almost ashamed to admit that the game that comes up first is Red Dead Redemption. I have not really enjoyed and of the Grand Theft Auto games, have never finished one, never even played San Andreas for that matter, so I was not expecting to lose myself so completely to GTA in the old west. But I did. It was all I could think about or wanted to play for quite some time because it was a good western with interesting characters and good writing first and a sand box game second. The death of John Marston was the single most emotional event in gaming all year, right up there with the ending of Metal Gear Solid 4 or Shadow Hearts 2 (manly tears, bro, manly), but his sons subsequent revenge was even better. That duel was as great a moment of catharsis as you can get in a game; I shot that bastard until my gun was out of bullets, reloaded, and shot him some more for good measure. Red Dead Redemption deserved to sell however many millions of copies it sold. It is the only sandbox game I have ever gotten to the end of that left me wanting more.

Amnesia, as a horror game, starts out pretty slow. As a veteran of the big hitters in the genre like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame I was prepared for anything and frightened by nothing for the first several hours. That is not to say that the game was not very good, there just wasn't anything that raised my heart rate or forced me to turn on all the lights in the house. Then them monsters showed up. Monsters that you cannot fight, are randomly (for the most part) placed, and that kill you in one or two hits each time. The first time I saw one I ran for my life, hid in a corner, out my light, and waited for him to go away. He didn't, opting to pace back and forth in the room making terrible, terrible sounds. Eventually I could stand no more and made a break for it, rounding a corner and hid in a shadow. After an eternity I peeked out, hoping to see an empty hallway. Nope, he was right fucking there. I died, then I turned around to make sure there was no one else in the room with me. Well done, Frictional, well done.

Going back further I am sure that God of War III should make the list, but I am trying to remember anything from the game that stood out and all I am coming up with is nailing Aphrodite while her topless attendants watched and fondled one another, and while that is a nice picture it is not a ringing endorsement for the game. Limbo was of course an excellent little title and I would play more if there was more of it to play, but the greatest joy of it was showing it to other people and watching their faces as the boy is killed in various and disgusting ways. It was the game equivalent of a shocker web site: fun but after the first time it is never the as good.

Two more. Zombie Apocalypse was an excellent twin stick shooter that managed to be addictive from the fist moment I turned it on. It is nothing more than Smash TV again, but it worked really well, and it made me want a XBLA remake of Loaded more than ever before. Finally (for now) there is Metro 2033. The first STALKER is one of my favorite games of all time, bugs and all, and the Clear Sky being unplayable at release was a terrible blow. It has probably been fixed, but I have never worked up the courage to download it again. Metro 2033 was STALKER on a console: better looking, streamlined and linear. It was the best parts of STALKER, the terrifying underground sections, strung together into an excellent shooter that not a lot of people played. Only some rather poor monster animation the tiny jello blobs of doom held it back from being excellent.

That's it, one more year down. There are many games that are missing, two of which (Fable III and Fallout New Vegas) are already in house and waiting to be played. I need to get through the mediocre action game calling itself Castlevania first, and it has not been an easy time so far.